From the April 2002 Idaho Observer:

Only technology and the times have changed

The relationship between people and governments have never changed. Those who govern do so at the expense of the governed. Seemingly benevolent at first as the governing gain the trust of the governed, all human governments become increasingly oppressive until the governed are slaves. There are laws of human nature which make this cycle of freedom to slavery inevitable. A little 75-page book entitled, “The Law” by French economist and historian Frederick Bastiat (1848) is perhaps the most insightful description of people and governments ever put into print.

A fatal tendency of mankind:

...[I]f everyone enjoyed the unrestricted use of his faculties and the free disposition of the fruits of his labor, social progress would be ceaseless, uninterrupted and unfailing. But there is another tendency that is common among people. When they can, they wish to live and prosper at the expense of others. This is not rash accusation. Nor does it come from a gloomy and uncharitable spirit. The annals of history bear witness to the truth of it: The incessant wars, mass migrations, religious persecutions, universal slavery, dishonesty in commerce, and monopolies. This fatal desire has its origin in the very nature of man -- in that primitive, universal and insuppressible instinct that impels him to satisfy his desires with the least possible pain.

Property and plunder

Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.

But also it is true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.

Now, since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain -- and since labor is pain in itself -- it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.

All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder. But generally, the law is made by one man or one class of men. And since law cannot operate without the sanction and support of a dominating force, this force must be entrusted to those who make the laws.

This fact, combined with the fatal tendency that exists in the heart of man to satisfy his wants with the least possible effort, explains the almost universal perversion of the law. Thus, it is easy to understand how law, instead of checking injustice, becomes the invincible weapon of injustice. It is easy to understand why the law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression and their property by plunder. This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in proportion to the power that he holds.

The results of legal plunder

It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: The conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.

What are the consequences of such a perversion? It would take volumes to describe them all. Thus we must content ourselves with pointing out the most striking. In the first place, it erases from everyone's conscience the distinction between justice and injustice.

Another effect of this tragic perversion of the law is that it gives an exaggerated importance to political passions and conflicts and to politics in general.

The complete perversion of the law

How has this perversion of the law been accomplished? The law has been perverted by the influence of two entirely different causes: Stupid greed and false philanthropy.

Each of the comments reprinted above, and every other comment in the book, is equally as applicable today as it was in the mid 1800s. What we are experiencing now in America has been experienced by every civilization in world history. There is no amount of TV or alcohol or Prozac that will make progressive plunder go away. The only thing that will stop plunder is to make it more painful than work.

If you haven't already, The Law is required reading. It can be found at every American Opinion Bookstore for a few dollars. It can also be downloaded for free at the website Even if you have read it, read it again and then give it to your high school students and still deceived friends and family members and pray that they have enough insight to understand that The Law could have been written last week.

We will leave you this month with a quote from Thomas Jefferson that we publish almost every month in The IO. The following quote, excerpted from a private letter the 73-year-old statesman wrote to an aspiring public servant named Samuel Kercheval in 1816, is perhaps the most concise overview of the relationship between people and governments ever put to paper. It is impossible to ignore the relevance of the following passage to our current set of socio/political circumstances.

“If we run into such [government] debts, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in twenty-four, give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses, and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes, have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers.

“And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a second, that second for a third, and so on 'til the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering...

“And the forehorse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.” ~Thomas Jefferson

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